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Democracy's Ancient Ancestors Mari and Early Collective Governance by Daniel E. (New York University) Fleming

Democracy's Ancient Ancestors Mari and Early Collective Governance


Democracy's Ancient Ancestors Mari and Early Collective Governance by Daniel E. (New York University) Fleming

Democracy's Ancient Ancestors examines the political landscape of the ancient Near East through the archive of over 3000 letters found in the royal palace of Mari. These letters display a rich diversity of political actors, encompassing major kingdoms, smaller states and various tribal towns. Mari's unique contribution to the ancient evidence is its view of tribal organization, made possible especially by the fact that its king Zimri-Lim was first of all a tribal ruler, who claimed Mari as an administrative base and source of prestige. These archaic political traditions are not essentially unlike the forms of pre-democratic Greece, and they offer fresh reason to recognize a cultural continuity between the classical world of the Aegean and the older Near East. This book bridges several areas of interest, including archaeology, ancient and classical history, early Middle and Near East, and political and social history.


'This is an important and impressive work ... What emerges from this study is a picture that is much more complex, nuanced, and to some extent confusing than those traditionally drawn of Mesopotamian societies and states. It is thus certain to be received with great interest by a number of disciplines beyond Assyriology (such as history, political science, and anthropology) and to stimulate intensive discussions on a wide range of issues. Not least, it makes a serious contribution to an old debate, triggered more than a half-century ago by Thorkild Jacobsen, on whether certain traits in Mesopotamian mythical and literary traditions can be interpreted as evidence for the existence of 'primitive democracies'
in an early period, before the emergence of the great empires led by centralized monarchies. In this respect the book is certain to attract the interest of classicists and ancient historians as well

Kurt A. Raaflaub

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Book Info

Publication date

19th July 2012


Daniel E. (New York University) Fleming

More books by Daniel E. (New York University) Fleming
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Cambridge University Press


390 pages


Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography
Classical Greek & Roman archaeology



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